A view from Queensland: Bad weather — don’t risk it!

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It’s Queensland… the radio is on and it speaks of mayhem and disaster. A short distance from where I live many people are weeping over lifetime losses that have been swept away on a raging torrent of menacing water — the 2011 flood. I know that the massive cleanup is underway and it is requiring extraordinary amounts of people and record- breaking resources.
As the days pass, people start asking questions: “How could this happen? Could it have been avoided or the damage reduced?” The Premier announces a Royal Commission on the Queensland floods. The Mayor agrees with the Enquiry but adds that making Brisbane flood proof is impossible as it is built on a plain.
The one thing I have yet to hear, and I might have missed it, is the question of climate change. There are those who believe climate change has little or nothing to do with this flood or anything to do with the evidence of the increasing worldwide pattern of extreme weather. It astonished me to learn that climate change scientists have created so much controversy that they receive hate mail.
Skeptics loudly claim that climate change is a massive hoax. As I researched this side of the discussion, I found that one of the major problems the scientists face in presenting their findings is the demands for “absolute proof of human induced global warming.” Skeptics are demanding a level of proof that doesn’ t exist in science.
The 2011 flood is being compared to the 1974 flood and another big flood in the late nineteenth century. Maybe a disaster every 100 years could be acceptable, given the volatility of nature. Maybe a disaster once every 30 or 40 years could be managed. However there is evidence we are beyond the one-off extreme weather events. Evidence is everywhere that severe weather patterns turning into disasters are becoming more and more frequent.
The recent example of bad weather in the UK captured worldwide media attention. Thousands of people were stranded in the country. British citizens and travellers interviewed by the media loudly complained that this extreme weather was no longer a one-off event. Once it was every 40 or even every 100 years ago, now it has become an annual disaster. Political leaders in the UK called for discussions on the need to implement infrastructure to deal with the extreme weather.
While they are discussing infrastructure they should acknowledge another problem — wages. In the UK, unless it is in the worker’s contract, there is no payment of wages to workers unable to get to the workplace due to extreme weather. Maybe that hasn’t concerned Australians as our “sunny one day, perfect the next” weather patterns has dulled our senses to the possibility of frequent interruptions to our incomes.
Other than the environmentalists, the scientists, and the politicians of varying persuasions concerned about these issues, there is also the big insurance companies. Their experts have never seen such extreme bush fires as those in the last 20 years in the U.S. — this sort of damage costs money. They take notice. Although they disagree with the other groups as to why the weather is becoming extreme, they agree that there is clearly a big shift in the climate, resulting in greater and more frequent weather events of destruction.
Could we hasten our commitment to the healing of the environment without the economy suffering? It’s a bit like asking “can we get to the top of the mountain without climbing it.” Besides, if the planet dies, there will be no economy to concern us.
People are part of nature — not apart from nature. We are the guardians of the planet. If we can avoid massive floods, raging bush fires, extreme snow falls, rising oceans, why would we hesitate to take that road? To say that the extreme weather and global warming is natural and a process of nature, and do nothing, could turn out to be the biggest gamble in the universe — and what we risk on that gamble, is life as we know it.
Aggie McCallum lives in Brisbane and is a subscriber to the Freedom Socialist Organiser. We thank her for her insights from the flooded north.

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